Let them eat cake Giving small doses of egg to children 'can cure allergy'
Immunotherapy should not be attempted outside strictly controlled research conditions
11:51 GMT, 19 July 2012
Quiche, omelettes and pasta could be back on the menu for children with egg allergies, after scientists developed an effective exposure therapy.
In tests, more than a quarter of youngsters fed small amounts of egg lost the allergy altogether, while others showed higher tolerance to exposure to eggs.
The findings add weight to the concept of oral immunotherapy – where the immune system is taught to tolerate something with small but increasingly growing exposures.
A quarter of particpants were able to eat eggs after the treatment
Simliar studies have suggested the same approach could be useful in milk and peanut allergies.
But researchers from the John Hopkins Children's Center warn that although showing promising results, oral immunotherapy is still in its infancy and should not be attempted outside strictly controlled research conditions.
For the study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, 35 of 40 children treated with egg immunotherapy experienced improvement.
Five of the 40 patients dropped out of the study, four of them due to allergic reactions related to treatment.
Of the remainder, eleven experienced complete long-term elimination of egg-related allergic reactions, the most sought-after therapeutic outcome.
The rest of the children were able to tolerate higher doses of egg with only mild or no symptoms, but lost some of their tolerance after discontinuing treatment.
But researchers say a higher threshold of tolerance is an important therapeutic marker because it can protect against serious allergic reactions from accidental or incidental exposures and give patients and parents peace of mind at restaurants or parties where food control is difficult.
Dr Robert Wood said: 'More than a quarter of the children in our study lost their egg allergies altogether, but we also saw dramatic improvements in those who didn't, which in and of itself is an important therapeutic achievement.
'These children went from having serious allergic reactions after a single bite of an egg-containing cookie to consuming eggs with minimal or no symptoms.'